Surviving Your First Spartan Race: A Primer for the Beginner Spartan, Part 1

This is meant to be a primer to help the first time, or beginner Spartan racer as you start down the journey into Spartan racing. The information provided below is a culmination of experience that I’ve learned close to a dozen Spartan races in a year and a half. This guide won’t get into fitness concepts or workouts, but the actual logistics leading up to a race, race day, and what to do after you jump the fire.

Part. 1: Before The Race

RaceDay

The week before the race, this will be your favorite web page in the world

Most of your prepping for your Spartan race starts about a week before the race itself, though some of the most important things need to be dealt with at least a month out. This is when you should be taking the time to get all of your transportation and lodging taken care of. Find the actual address of the race, as found on the Race Day tab on the web page for your specific race on the Spartan website. Also, it is very important to read this page fully, as it will tell you if there are any special instructions regarding how to get to the course. They may have you park in one location and walk or get transported via bus to the course. It will tell you what, if any parking fees there will be, and also give out basic recommended directions to get there, along with any lessons learned from last year (In 2013, for the Carolina Beast, there were numerous issues with traffic backups making for lots of problems. In 2014, Spartan learned from this and offered different routes for people based on the directions they were coming form; which helped). If your travelling requires you to get airfare; look 60 days out for flights. If you’re not savvy enough, to scour the internet for the cheapest flight, or don’t know all the ins and out of when and how to get a plane ticket, look into using the services of a travel agent. Many times, they can save you enough on your plane, hotel and car that it makes a difference. I use a travel agent when I know nothing about the area I’m going to be racing at.

If you do multiple races in a year, you may find yourself living inside of a spreadsheet.

You need to also look for a hotel, or a friend’s couch to stay at that’s near the venue. Personally, I like to find things around a half hour away from the race because I don’t want to worry about having to drive an hour in traffic beforehand, or another hour covered in mud and exhausted to get back to a hotel. It makes sense to find something as close and safe as you are comfortable being to the race venue. If you’re adventurous, sometimes camping is an option. Look at the venue’s website for information. If you’re like the majority of racers however, you won’t need a plane ticket or a hotel; and are driving to the race. A month prior to the race, make sure your car is in good working order, figure out how much gas you’re going to need, and get good directions to the venue.

So, now you have some of the biggest things out of the way; what next? It’s always a good idea to have some sort of support system in place. If you’re running with a group or even alone, there may be people who go with you as spectators that you can use as your support. These are the people who you can rely on race day to help you get your gear in order, to hold your personal items while you race, to help you clean up after the race, and to take your picture so you can post it on Social Media for the world to see your accomplishment afterwards. Your support also acts as your emergency contact should something go pear shaped to you during the race. Find the responsible friend that you know to be your support; and as a thank you pick up the cost of their spectator pass. They’ll also be witnessing the Spartan Race from a perspective completely different than yours as a racer; and combining both theirs and your perspectives will make for a legendary story.

Race Day Info

The Race Day Info Section of the Spartan Race site

About a week before your race is due to start, Spartan will update the Race Day tab of your race with the starting times and your bib number. Once that information is released, take the time to print out the waivers (participant, spectator and if applicable media), and fill them out. This will save you time (and lines) on race day. It’s also very important to check the weather for the venue to see what to expect. Spartan will race in any and all conditions until they are told to by whoever owns the venue. If there is “weird” weather forecasted, make sure to follow Spartan Race on Facebook for any updates, check your email that you used to sign up with and the race page on the Spartan website. The weather will tell you what you should wear, and should give you a sense as what to pack.

Don’t wait until the night before to figure out what you are going to wear. Take the weekend before to figure out what it is you’re going to wear. It goes without saying to AVOID COTTON AT ALL COSTS, and look to wear any form of wicking material or performance active wear.  Guys decide whether you want to run shirtless or not. Women, you can run in a sports bra if you feel comfortable enough. I understand that for some people, the decision as to what to wear to events like these can be stressful and difficult. The best advice I can offer is to wear what makes you feel the most comfortable, while balancing how it will affect you out on the course in the heat/cold, mud and dirt. Despite what you may think, no one else cares when you jump into the paddock wearing. You may get noticed if you’re wearing next to nothing or covered head to toe in performance wear, or even dressed in a kilt – but no one will *care*. You will need good shoes to take on a Spartan race. The things to look for in shoes are (in this level of importance): traction/grip, draining, and material. Make sure the soles of the shoes have “teeth” that will be able to give you grip on bare dirt hills and in muddy conditions. Make sure they drain well. You should be able to completely submerge them and not be squishing around a few minutes later. Make sure that they are lightweight; you’re going to be in them for a couple of miles. Now a days, there are many shoe manufacturers who have OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) shoes out on the market. Those are a definite help. The point is that you should not show up wearing shoes that are about to fall off, or shoes with no grip. Take this time to also figure out what you’re going to wear to the race (if anything; see: weather) and/or after the race. Personally, I like to pack a long sleeved shirt, even if it’s going to be warm because after the race, sometimes I get chilled from the caloric loss. I also like to pack a pair of flip flops for after the race. You’ll want some sort of clothes to change out of because, well… mud. Mud everywhere. Mud everywhere even after showers. Need I say more? Make sure that you have a bag of some sort to pack everything in, and also pack a trash bag to put your dirty, muddy clothes in

For the rest of the week, you’ll be a combination of excitement, stress, and nerves. Find ways to relax, and train as you normally would.

This is what I took with me on the course for the Carolina Beast.

This was my support pack waiting for me at the finish.

The night before the race, do a final check on your gear, what you’re packing and your vehicle. Get a good meal in with lots of carbs. You’re going to need them in the morning. Avoid intoxicants, and try and get a good night of sleep.

 

 

 

 
Next time, we’ll talk about race day

Comments

  1. Bo Bennett
    Bo Bennett

    This is all good solid advice! I was fortunate enough to have friends who had ran before to share a lot of this advice with me before my first race… To tell you the truth I never gave much though to what I was going to wear and I am so glad that I took the time to address that issue.

    I will say my shoes were not the right kind of shoes to have even though I made it through, I am upgrading those bad boys before the super in August.